Now, hold on right there before you get upset. Simmer. Let the question stand for a moment.
We have all dealt with the teasing and complaining generated by family and friends who support opposing fan bases. Auburn supporters love to argue that Alabama only has nine legitimate titles. The most absurd ones now claim that only six are legitimate. Whatever their argument may be, they sure do enjoy taunting Tide fans with regard to this most important number (unless you're dealing with someone who wants to rehash the Iron Bowl starting with 1980 -- oh brother). Hopefully you have decided to read this before voting "14," because we're about to delve into several ways one can come about a standard of a national title.
How about a bit of a history lesson to start things off? The NCAA does not recognize a national champion in FBS; however, it does list championships awarded by various organizations, and between all of them, Alabama has 18. Of those organizations, the AP Poll (1936-present) was first selector deemed legitimate enough for circulation by the print media. Before 1936, separate outlets awarded their own champions, and any school claiming such a title today has done so retroactively. Alabama has won 8 AP titles. The other major poll that persists today, the Coaches' Poll, first selected a champion in 1950. The Crimson Tide have won the Coaches' Trophy seven times. Between the two of them, Alabama boasts nine national championships.
Well, way back when men were honorable and children knew how to fight, these various organizations would recognize a champion before the post-season bowl game. Before television networks realized that football equaled guaranteed high ratings, the bowl games were viewed as exhibition matches. Unfortunately for Alabama fans, we went on quite a bowl-game losing streak during the Bear's tenure. In 1964, Alabama was awarded both the AP and Coches' titles after an undefeated regular season, only to lose to the Texas Longhorns in the Orange Bowl. The AP began awarding post-bowl championships with the '65 season. The UPI (Coaches') began awarding a title after the bowls in 1975, after Alabama once again won the trophy and lost its post-season match-up against AP champion Notre Dame. Yet, the bowl system giveth, and the bowl system taketh away -- in 1966, an undefeated Bryant squad was denied a third championship in three straight years after Notre Dame tied Michigan State in their late match-up. Both teams were 9-0-1, while 11-0 Alabama finished third in both major polls. Many argue this was the result of blowback from the segregationist policies the university held at the time, costing the Tide votes in both polls.So how should we plot out a criteria for championships to claim? Should the timeline include the entire history of the sport? Many argue that football as we know it began with the forward pass in 1906. Others scoff at the idea of counting anything before World War II and the rise of the AP Poll. And what about integration? If you happen to be talking sports with a Michigan fan, good luck convincing them that the 1920's didn't matter. However, at some point we do have to draw the line -- we simply cannot allow Princeton to claim 28 national championships and act like they are worth anything. That said, here are the various ways one can come up with a solid number.
18 National Championships
Logic: Just take the NCAA's word for it. This is basically a comedy option. Print the shirts, etc.
Years: 1925, 1926, 1930, 1934, 1941, 1945, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011
Arguments for? The undefeated '45 and '66 teams get their due. (The '45 team finished behind #1 Army and #2 Navy on the AP selection due to increased patriotism during WW2.) Also, triple championships from 1964-66 and '77-79.
Arguments against? People would laugh in your face if you came up with that number.
Pawl, you tell Tammy... that number is FOUR TEEN
Logic: Just take the University's word for it. This is the number of titles that Alabama claims.
Years: 1925, 1926, 1930, 1934, 1941, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011
Pros? It includes the entire history of the program. Every major poll title is recognized. It is consistent with the metrics other teams like Notre Dame and Michigan have gone by.
Cons? Titles were retroactively recognized by the program to match what other schools were doing at the time. 1925, 1926, 1930, 1934, 1941 were added to the football media guide in 1984. Of those added, some of the selectors were papers not widely circulated, while others were organizations that didn't even exist at the time.
13 Titles - DIDN'T WIN THEIR CONFERENCE
Logic: Use the previous list but throw out 1941 since it's rather ugly to argue over.
Um.. we can still wear our shirts from last year?
ESPN officially sanctioned number -- 9
Logic: Major polls only
Years: 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011
Strong-side? Major polls that were nationally circulated. It's kind of hard for anyone to make an argument against this number, unless they're clinically insane. Additionally, this was the era when most teams were either integrated or beginning to allow African Americans to play with scholarships.
Weak-side? We lost two of the bowl games. Oh well.
LSU's favorite - TWO
Logic: BCS era
Years: 2009, 2011
Positives? Uh, it's pretty modern?
Negatives? We'd have the same number as LSU and Florida, and Auburn has 1.
Thankfully, this poll won't matter at all. And no matter what the results are, remind yourselves this: there are surely more championships to come.